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A superbly beautiful and very large Hopi plainware pottery “Piki” bowl by Myrtle Young, c. 1950’s-60’s

We haven’t had one of these beauties in quite some time. Myrtle Young (1903-1984) was the modern-day Master of the Hopi plainware piki bowl, making totally exquisite large lovely vessels such as this big beauty. Myrtle is not quite as well known as her more famous sister and fellow Hopi potter, Garnet Pavatea (dates but she was no less talented.

Myrtle and Garents piki bowls are a pottery connoisseur’s dream; taking a humble, functional utilitarian form—a ceramic bowl to mix and hold bread dough in for making the Hopi flatbread known as "Piki"— and elevating it into a sublime artistic achievement; finely-shaped, impeccably polished and artistically graceful. They are timeless, historic and completely contemporary at the same time. Accordingly, they have been coveted and collected by a veritable who’s who of the most knowledgable and sophisticated Pueblo pottery collectors and dealers, people such as the late Martha H. Struever and Richard M. Howard of Santa Fe and as well as numerous of their best colleagues and clients. They are also featured in the permit collections of many prominent museums.

A tray of freshly-made piki bread

© Wikipedia

“The Piki Maker, Hopi” by Edward S. Curtis, 1906

Possibly the reason for this is that plkainware pottery is the ultimate and clearest expression of the clay, particularly such a beautifully expressive  clay as Hopi clay can be, there is simply nowhere to hide, nothing to cover up mistakes, the shape, the size, the quality of the firing and polishing are all the tools the potter has to work with. And, in the case of this superlative bowl Myrtkle succeeds on all counts magnificently and particularly so with the ultra-difficult ultra high temperature traditional firing with ultra-hot burning Hopi lignite coal which gives the vessel its most beautiful whitish yellow firing clouds or “Blushes” which are a singular, magnificent decorative element and composition in their own right. So much so, that Its hard to know just which way to place and view this bowl as one side is more beautiful and interesting than the next.

The bowl measures a very nicely sized 15" in diameter and is 6" in height. It is outstaninding—quite renrkable in fact for its 60-70 or so years of age —original condition with no cracks, no chips, no significant abrasions or scratches. A thorough examination of the vessel under UV light shows no evidence at all of any restoration. The bowl is properly signed “Myrtle Young” on the bottom. There is also the remnant of an old collection or inventory tag with the number rubbed off which appears to very possibly have been an Richard Howard, Santa Fe collection tag. We were intimately familiar with Richard Howard’s collection and remember him having two or three of Myrtle’s piki bowls and at least two of Garnet’s.

Tread in the footsteps of greatness here, from the talented potter who made them to the great collectors who have coveted them, get yourself a great Myrtle Young piki bowl, a modern-day classic.

Price $2,650


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